Thursday, January 20, 2005

Master of Distortion

In today's New York Daily News, Richard Cohen adds to the growing pile of juvenile diatribes against President Bush. How many such diatribes do you think we'll see in the pages of our newspapers today?

Alchemy is the purported science of turning base metals into gold. It does not exist. Political alchemy is the ability to turn hard failures into gossamer triumphs. It does exist. The inauguration of President Bush for a second term proves it.

Oh, that. For a moment there I thought he was talking about the way Congressional Democrats are poised to block confirmations of Alberto Gonzales and Condoleeza Rice, as if their sound defeat in the November election was actually a win, and they had some sort of widespread mandate to carry on with their partisan obstructionism.

The President, of course, does not see it that way. He proclaims himself at the top of his game: ruler of the free world, liberator of Iraq and magnificent chief of the Grand Old Party. Most important, in his view, is that his view is shared by the American people. His reelection was no mere mandate, since, you will recall, he claimed that the last time, when he scratched out a win in Florida by only several hundred votes. No, this victory is a mandate of Rooseveltian dimensions. With precisely this sort of self-assurance, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France.

I think Cohen is trying to be sarcastic. The fact is that the President did free Iraq from years of torture, murder, and bloodshed. Are we supposed to see this as a bad thing? And President Bush is clearly the heir apparent to Ronald Reagan as a central symbol of the vitality and dynamism of today's Republican Party. The fact that so many on the left hate him is practically proof of that.

The 60-day war is now in its second year, and the chorus of those urging a pullout grows louder and louder. Even former Mayor Ed Koch says it's time for the U.S. "to declare victory and . . . bring our troops home." Koch, a Democrat who supported Bush's reelection, also supported the war and, oddly, still does. Still, he wants out.

Does he? Note the Dowdian ellipsis. Here's the column by Koch to which Cohen is referring. And here's what Koch says about the war in Iraq.

To his enormous credit, President Bush has stood strong on this issue. During the last election, he convinced the American public that we were right to take the action he ordered as president, and he was re-elected, increasing his support in almost every sector of our society. I was and continue to be proud of my support for his decision to go to war and of my participation as a volunteer in his campaign for re-election.

Regrettably, the country remains divided on the issue. In my opinion, what underlies America’s great concern over the war is the fact that the U.S. and Great Britain alone are suffering the military casualties and deaths. Our traditional allies, France, Germany and Canada, continue to criticize us while benefiting from the heroic sacrifices made by the U.S. and Great Britain.

We expected the people of Iraq, particularly the Shia in the south, who have been terrorized for years by Saddam Hussein, and the swamp Arabs, whose living area was deliberately destroyed by Hussein, to welcome our armies as liberators. But they did not. To the contrary, the Shia, albeit to a lesser extent than the Sunnis, have sought to kill our troops.

Now here's Koch's solution -- the solution that Cohen so masterfully distorts:

In light of the current conditions in Iraq, I suggest the following:

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair should inform the present interim Iraqi government that within 60 days after the January 30 election, we will begin the removal of our combined forces and the withdrawal will be completed within 90 days thereafter. The Iraqi army, now about 150,000 strong, will have to control the country and its porous borders.

Iraq’s neighbors may lament and complain bitterly that the vacuum created by the absence of our troops will lead to civil war. To prevent that from happening, neighboring countries might conclude that it is necessary to commit their troops to prevent such a war. Other Muslim countries, either Sunni or Shia in tradition, might similarly conclude that they, too, should commit troops to protect their coreligionists.

NATO countries, for either humanitarian reasons or as a result of dependency on Iraqi oil or for other economic concerns, might feel compelled to get involved and be willing to shed the blood of their young men and women to defend the peace.

I suspect that if George Bush and Tony Blair advanced this proposal, we would be implored to remain in Iraq by the Sunni, Shia, NATO allies, the countries in the region, and by Muslim states around the world. For the first time in a long while, we would be in the catbird seat, directing those nations as to what their share of boots on the ground would be and what their reimbursement and fair share would be of the $200 billion or more that we have spent to date. It would then be our option to stay or leave.

In the event that we leave, the Kurds should be given the arms they need to protect themselves and a commitment that the U.S. and Great Britain will continue to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq, which our NATO allies of France and Germany never supported.

I concur with the recent advice of Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to Former President Bush, but go even further. According to The New York Times on January 10, 2005:

“Mr. Scowcroft said the situation in Iraq raised the fundamental question of ‘whether we get out now.’ He urged Mr. Bush to tell the Europeans on a trip to Europe next month: ‘I can’t keep the American people doing this alone. And what do you think would happen if we pulled American troops out right now?’ In short, he was suggesting that Mr. Bush raise the specter that Iraq could collapse without a major foreign presence – exactly the rationale the administration has used for its current policy.”

I would go even further. I would tell the Europeans that the U.S. will not consider remaining in Iraq unless the Europeans commit their troops and join us. They should know that the days of America and Britain bearing the deaths and casualties alone are over.

Does that sound like what Cohen describes with his Dowdian ellipsis? (The ellipsis, I must add, is not only misplaced in Cohen's quote, it is quite unnecessary as well.)

Cohen continues:

The war in Iraq is a debacle, and yet Bush talks about it as if it were going swimmingly. His original aims have been amended a bit -- now it's a grand march toward Middle East democracy.

Where has Cohen been? The goal in Iraq was always to establish democracy. What other form of government would Cohen prefer? He doesn't say. Are we to presume that Cohen thinks democracy -- government of the people -- is a bad thing? Or is it the typical canard that the Iraqis aren't fit for democracy, as if freedom and self-rule should be confined to the West?

Iraq aside -- and, really, that's not possible -- are there other areas where the administration has done so well that you can say it explains Bush's smile? The economy? Hardly. It's okay -- not really terrific and not bad, either. It is, though, the recipient of huge and reckless tax cuts that have spread cash like Tinkerbell does fairy dust.

In Cohen's view of the world, tax cuts mean "spreading cash around." Apparently he'd rather rather that the government spread that cash around instead of letting private citizens fuel the economy.

Could it be education? Hardly. No Child Left Behind is a nifty slogan and maybe a good idea, but it is not the sort of thing that gets Presidents on Mount Rushmore. Conservation? Are you mad? Agriculture? You jest.

People don't get monuments for their stances on public education, conservation, and agriculture, Mr. Cohen. Except perhaps in some fantasy world where they also get monuments for wearing clothing made of hemp.

Maybe it's the way we've been able to stop nuclear proliferation or the way America is now respected around the world, particularly in Muslim countries. Sorry. Just kidding.

When have we ever been respected by Muslim countries around the world? Or perhaps Mr. Cohen believes that being called "the Great Satan" is a measure of respect.

Bush's unsurpassing achievement has been to make fantasy seem like reality and failure seem like success. He strides the world stage, a genuine smile on his face and a false mandate in his pocket.

Behold the gold! What, you don't see it? No matter. Washington does.

I'm not even sure what this means. Is he forgetting that Washington has a large share of obstructionist Democrats who feel exactly as Mr. Cohen does? But if Cohen didn't even seem to understand what Ed Koch was saying, how can we expect him to understand something so complex as Washington?

Or maybe this is just another distortion.


At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of these journalists are pretty hard to stomache. Susan Lenfestey at the Minnesota Star Tribune was even worse.

As the 9/11 widow tucks her children into bed, wondering why the recommendations made in "The 9/11 Commission Report" weren't implemented, Tom Ridge tightens his cummerbund.

As prisoners charged with no crimes, and given no recourse, languish in the hellhole of Guantanamo Bay, torture apologist Alberto Gonzales clicks his cufflinks into place.

As Pfc. Francis Obaji, oldest son of an immigrant Nigerian family, is zipped into a body bag for the sad journey home, Laura Bush zips up her Oscar de la Renta gown

There are 11 more if you can stomache them.

Vista On Current Events


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